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This time of year, you search for the perfect gift.  It’s hard enough for our loved ones that we see each and every day.  It’s a challenge even when you know what the recipient is interested in, hobbies, likes, dislikes.  Now, go buy the perfect gift for a perfect stranger.  Wait, who in the world had to do that?  You do.  That’s what you have to do, oftentimes, when you select gifts for your child’s teacher.  And believe it or not, it is possible to get a very thoughtful gift for someone you’ve never met.  It often starts with making what some consider the most impersonal gift, personal.

Gift Card

I know, I know.  This seems like a cheat, but as teacher, I can tell you it is the most appreciated gift.  Here’s how to make it thoughtful and personal:

  • Teachers are very limited with their lunch options and the time available to eat.  Giving a gift card to a local lunch eatery, bakery, coffee shop or, even better, one that delivers would be greatly appreciated.  You would be supporting a local business and showing that you considered the needs of the recipient.
  • Give a gift card to the nearest teacher supply store or office supply store.  Classrooms are a bottomless pit when it comes to supply needs.  This gift will make any teacher’s day.
  • Just like you and me, teachers have to put food on the table for their families.  Just like you and me, they appreciate any help in doing so.  So give a gift card to a local grocery store.  Maybe give it with an apple from the produce section?

Magazine Subscription

No matter the subject matter, there is a publication tailored for it. One of the best gifts I received when teaching journalism/newspaper/yearbook was a year-long subscription to a digital photographymagazine.  The students and I would wait anxiously for the next month’s issue for new tips and techniques to try with our digital SLR cameras.  It was like Christmas morning 12 times that year.  So, if your child is in preschool, maybe his teacher would like a subscription to Highlights High Five ($35), Ladybug ($34), or National Geographic Little Kids ($25) to share with the class?  And as proven by my example, this gift can work all the way through high school.

Jones New York in the Classroom Shirt

Jones New York is a huge supporter of education and teachers.  JNY employees are encouraged to give back to the schools in their community and the company, through its non-profit, sponsors teacher and classroom makeovers.  Each year JNY develops a t-shirt honoring teachers.  Proceeds from shirt sales support several worthyeducational causes.  To see more about this initiative, visit http://www.jnyintheclassroom.org/.  You can check out and purchase this year’s shirt at Macy’s for $20.

What to Avoid

There are two big items to avoid when sending teacher gifts:

- Teacher “themed” gifts.  Unless you know that Ms. Smith wants to advertise her #1 Teacher status, it’s best to avoid such paraphernalia.

- Home-baked goods.  Once again, I know you are a skeptic.  A home-baked item is the ultimate in personal gifts.  It involves the sacrifice of time and is a creation to be shared.  Just hear me out. There are three primary drawbacks to giving your favorite hand-made treat:  1)  Just like everyone else, teachers have food preferences and allergies,  2)  I’m a neat freak.  I’m not sure how to put this politely, so I won’t even try.  As a teacher, you have no idea of the sanitary conditions in which your yummy treat was prepared,  3)  Not everyone reads this site (even though they should), so your child’s teacher is going to receive 42 lbs. of homemade sweets the day before school dismisses for the holiday.  No one can eat that much candy/cookies/cakes/fudge before it spoils.   Rather, no one should.

If You Insist…

If you insist on giving a food item, present it in a classic, reusable container.  A ceramic holiday-themed plate or bowl is always a hit, but so is plain white.  I always find beautiful dishware at great prices at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  Also consider giving a food item that has a long shelf life, so there is no rush to eat it. Individually packaged chocolates come to mind.

Ask Your Children

Finally, ask your children.  As much as they may not let on, they do pay attention.  Here’s proof:  Just before the dismissal bell rang one day, my students and I were chatting and they asked me my plans for the evening.  I casually mentioned that I had “spa night” on Friday nights because my husband does his internet gaming that night.  For Christmas, those same students presented me with a gift basket from Bath and Body Works.  They were listening and so are your children.

Happy Shopping!

Shannon

Shannon

A former higher education administrator and teacher, Shannon is a stay- at-home mom to a two-year-old boy and four-year-old girl. She is currently recovering from a year of "single parenthood" while her husband, an active-duty Air Force member, was deployed to the Middle East. She is a lover of food and all things crafty. During the last season of The Oprah Show, Ms. Winfrey selected her as a Martha Stewart "ultimate fan" and flew her to Chicago for the taping of Ms. Stewart's final appearance on the program.

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  1. 1.
    KateKate

    This is such a great post, Shannon! I love your ideas, particularly the magazine subscription suggestion.

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  3. 2.

    Great ideas Shannon! Hopefully now there will be many thankful teachers out there:)

  4. 3.

    Thanks for the pointers. My daugher has a “new” teacher. Her “regular” teacher went on maturity leave. Both teachers are younger and have longish hair. We make headbands. So I thought we could make each teacher a chalkboard inspired headband and an goes with lots headband. I thought that way they would be able to actually use their gifts. Good idea?

  5. 4.
    Elissa

    Funny. My mom taught ballet for almost twenty years and over that time, the whole family looked forward to all of the wonderful baked goods she received. “Different strokes” and all that, I guess.

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